Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on July 7, 2018 at 6:00pm Mass and July 8, 2018 at the 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
Three friends die in a car crash and arrive in heaven together. During their orientation St. Peter asks them, “At the funeral home, when your friends and family are mourning your death, what would you like to hear them say as they look over you in the casket?”
The first guy immediately replies, “I would like to hear them say that I was a good man and doctor who did so much to help those in need.”
The second guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a good husband, father, and teacher who made a huge difference in the lives of so many people.”
The last guy thinks for a minute and then replies, “I’d like to hear them say, ‘Look! He opened his eyes and he’s starting to move!’”
We all care to some degree what others think about us, don’t we? We want people to have a positive view of us and say good things about our lives. We don’t want to feel like Jesus does in today’s gospel when he returns to his hometown of Nazareth. The people take offense at him and his success. Jesus was from a simple family from a small town, and he returns as a rabbi in the synagogue who has disciples and other followers. They ask, “Where did this man get this knowledge?” and, “How can such wonderful things happen through his hands?” Basically, they were saying, “How did he get so smart? What makes him so special? He’s an ordinary Joe just like us.”
That is the beauty of today’s gospel. It shows our Lord as an ordinary Joe, a regular guy, just like each one of us. He had a family. He had a hometown. He used his hands to learn to be a carpenter like his father. If he lived today he might have posted pictures on Instagram pictures of the family Fourth of July picnic or made a Facebook Live video of the family setting off fireworks. He might play baseball or soccer…although never on the Sabbath. He was an ordinary Joe, Bob, David, just like us.
We learn from today’s gospel, and from the life of Jesus, that our faith is meant to be ordinary, and when I say ordinary I don’t mean that it is not special, but that our faith is meant to be a regular part of our lives. It is not meant to be separate part of our “everyday” routine. Our faith is not just a destination at the end of the week to attend Mass, but an important part of each step we take in our journey through life. We should live out our faith at home, on the road, at work, at school, and all the other places we go. Faith is meant to be an ordinary part of the ordinary lives of ordinary people.
The great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen said, “The spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.” Our Lord lived a very real life filled with happiness, joy, as well as pain, and suffering. In many ways it is the same ordinary life that each of us is leading right now. Of course, you might be thinking, “But I can’t do any miracles like feeding five thousand people or raise someone from the dead.” But even Jesus said in the gospel of John, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these.” Think about that. Think of all the amazing things that the saints did through faith. For example, St. Alphonsus could bilocate, which meant he could be in two places at once. It was said that he would be preaching from the pulpit up at the front of the church while hearing confessions in the back of the church at the same time.
Faith is so important and makes such a difference. Without faith even Jesus himself could not work a miracle in today’s gospel, as it says that he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there” because of the lack of faith of the people. Although it does say that he was able to cure a few sick people. These people who are healed represent for us those who go to the Lord in complete faith, who have reserved a very special place in their hearts and lives for faith.
Faith changes everything. When we make faith more a part of our life, it changes us and our life because faith is transformational. It turns the son of a carpenter into a rabbi with knowledge and wisdom never before seen, doing mighty deeds and miracles. Faith is what brings God into our lives, into our days, and into all the ordinary moments of our lives. Those moments are then no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. The more areas in our lives that we involve our faith, the more our life is transformed, the more things change, the more likely we are likely to experience a miracle.
I usually wear plain ordinary khakis to work, but to be different, on Friday I wore bright purple pants. Nobody usually notices a guy in khakis, but when you wear bright purple pants, people at work and on the street take notice. Several times I caught people trying to take a picture of me with their phones. Although I did get a thumb’s up from a man dressed in a purple animal costume that was in town for the “furry” convention. I said earlier, we care about what other people think about us, and in regard to our faith, maybe we care too much about what people think. Our faith is like a pair of khakis that nobody notices. We don’t openly share our faith at work or in public in today’s society. We don’t discuss or share our faith with others. We don’t pray with others. We need to wear our faith like a pair of bright purple pants, not caring what others think, so that people cannot help but notice our faith. Faith is much too important, it makes too much of a difference in our lives and in the world, not to. What if Jesus had cared what the people of his hometown of Nazareth thought of him? What if he cared what the scribes, the Pharisees, and everyone else thought of him? Where would we be today?
Each of us ordinary people can have our ordinary lives transformed into something very special, full, and complete. Faith enables our lives to be touched by the presence of Christ, where ordinary days become extraordinary.
So, put away your ordinary khaki pants and wear the bright purple pants of faith, and not only will your life be transformed today, but one day you will trade in the bright purple pants of faith for a pure white gown in heaven for all eternity.
Rejoice and be glad!